Sometimes truth makes incredible story, sometimes, true faith brings about incredible life lessons. I remember being mesmerized regarding the Amish Tragedy in Pennsylvania a few years ago. Being Mennonite myself, and having studied some of the materials of the author of the book, Amish Grace, How Forgiveness Transcends Tragedy by Donald B. Kraybill, I was somewhat interested to see how the Lifetime Television Network did with their made for TV movie now on DVD.
Amish Grace is the story of a milkman Charlie Roberts, played by John Churchill who lives in an Amish community in Pennsylvania. He is distraught after the death of his daughter at birth. He blames God and figures the way to get even with God is to go to an Amish school and kill the children. Based on true events, the story explores the forgiveness offered to the wife of Charlie who is left with three children. In the process of forgiveness within the Amish community, one of the mothers, Ida Graeber, played by Tammy Blanchard, struggles with forgiveness, especially when her faith community has banned, ‘shunned’ (a term used within the religious community) her own daughter for leaving the community and marrying outside of her faith.
Amish Grace is unfortunately, an obvious made for television movie. Missing are the typical top actors, and certain film techniques. The good news is, that while many made for TV movies and series as of recent have been quite exceptional, this isn’t quite up to par too many of those shows. It is however a quite good, well acted, mesmerizing story, and one that is actually quite good for a Cable Network like Lifetime. One of the surprising and appreciative aspects is the respect given to the Amish Community in the filming of the movie, while not compromising some of the appropriate questions about their faith concepts.
The direction provided by Greg Champion is quite good as is the editing by Anita Brandt-Burgoyne. In their work the story evolves quite well, and the truth is, the DVD feature is likely superior to the television story, if for no other reason, the ability for the story to move along without commercial interruption. While there are some questions and some holes in the plotline, they are eventually answered and clarification is given.
The journey involves two women who were impacted by the events. It is here the film causes this reviewer to reflect on a number of issues. Amy, the mother whose husband killed the children at the Amish School, and later killed himself, and Ida an Amish mother whose daughter was killed in the shooting are both women whose faith are important to them. One doesn’t know how one could forgive, and the other doesn’t know why she should forgive when she has been hurt so much by her own faith community. Their journey to discover their own answers to their faith ultimately brings them together, to a place that isn’t easy to arrive at, and a place where most viewers will appreciate. One of the enjoyable things about watching this movie is the progression of the characters and the honesty of how the story is presented. While we see conflicts of faith, and conflicts of belief, we see them in a way where the good and the bad are presented.
One of the things we see presented in Amish Grace in a beautiful way is the complexity of a concept like forgiveness. It is a concept that when truly offered is offered out of love, a love that not many will understand. We also see it presented in a way where we realize it isn’t always easy. The question of who deserves and doesn’t deserve grace and forgiveness is asked in a real and unique way. While many would say that a murderer doesn’t deserve grace we learn to understand that sometimes the lack of grace and forgiveness may have more of an impact on the innocent than we realize.
Amish Grace is one of the best spiritually themed television programs to come about in a long time. The DVD is well worth the retail purchase price and deserving of an audience. One shouldn’t expect to see a top notch theatrical release because that isn’t what this movie is. What it is though is a thought provoking presentation of a people who live by peace, but also at a cost. It searches out in an honest way not just the highlights of their belief system and family oriented communities, it also explores the beliefs that seem to be inconsistent to much of their teachings, especially in the areas of how shunning impacts not just those intended to help, but those who are having to offer the practice. What transpires however in Amish Grace is a discussion and presentation of honesty. One I appreciated and could recommend.
In a world where so many want to condemn and judge, we see a movie where forgiveness and grace are ultimately offered, even to those seemingly not deserving of that love and grace. The amazing thing about what we see is that most of us won’t have an excuse to not try to exhibit this behavior though, because the story is true, and the events all too real. Sometimes those stories, despite them being on television as opposed to the big screen can be just as powerful. That is if given the chance, and Amish Grace is certainly worth giving a chance.
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